As we saw in this week’s modules, we saw that urban agriculture contributes on a local level. The positive impacts varied from feeding the community to compost. For today, an aspect that captured my attention was how much food is wasted in the U.S. which according to the USDA is about 30-40% which equates to $161 billion. This is a lot of food that can just as easily be composted. While some is from production being unable to keep up with the perfection standards another part come from individual effort. The United States Environmental Protection Agency calculated that as of 2018, 68% of food in homes is wasted which accumulates to 42.8 million tons of food wasted. Out of that percentage the United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 30% could be composted at home. This would help us reduce our carbon footprint individually and as a whole.
Recommended U.S. EPA ways to prevent waste
- Make grocery list according to your meals not vice versa.
- Estimating how much of each product will be needed per meal. For example if you are cooking fajitas and it is just you just buying one bell pepper.
- Taking inventory of the household items before shopping.
- Learning how to store items. Bananas release ripening gases so if put near other fruits it will ripen all of the fruit. Freezing items especially seasonal.
- Perishable items can be precooked and frozen. This can mean if you have more time to cook on Sundays and you bought everything to make a sandwich you can prep these and stick them in the freezer.
- Recycling stale food turning bread into croutons. Or repurposing meals that were once made and left over into another meal.
An article Scientific American reports on ways that people have found ways to cut food waste. An example of this is restaurants donating food that would otherwise go to waste in order to help feed the poor. Some even use vegetables that are no longer in their prime as a cheap alternative to livestock feed. An extreme people are willing to go to in order to protect the environment and save some money is known as “freeganism”. Freeganists are so dedicated to they take it one step further and depend on food waste that us dumped. Essentially they live off of dumpster diving which not only prevents more food going to waste but also help mitigate some of the effects of those who do waste. For those who prefer less extreme options the U.S EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) provides a guide to how people can compost at home both indoors and outdoors.
Composting at home the DO’s
- Provide the compost with plenty of water to aid the decomposition process.
- Browns such as dead leaves, branches, and twigs can be composted.
- Greens such as grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps (banana peels), and coffee grounds.
- More randomized items that can be put into compost: dryer and cleaner lint, newspapers, hair and fur and fire place ash.
- Alternate layers of green and brown (sort of like a casserole). Make sure items are of varying sizes as smaller pieces will decompose a lot faster.
In a previous research I had conducted ash can help make an acidic soil more basic. It also provides more organic matter which promotes the bacteria and fungi to reproduce more due to the ample food supply. When applied to the soil overtime there will be a layer of black “soil” which indicates a soil horizon of high organic matter content. To avoid smell, rodents, and other pests you must follow a proper way of composting and not add every waste items.
- Do not add any animal wastes such as unwanted meats, fats or bones.
- Dairy products like yogurt cannot be composted.
- Oils, grease, or fats may not be composted. If composted it will attract pests and bad smells.
Although compost are very beneficial Harrison believed many had a false assumption that composting is fertilizer. While it can provide minimal nutrient content it cannot be available to the plant until it is fully decomposed. Nitrogen as its plant available form is ammonium or nitrate. In the initial stages fertilizer will be needed to see significant growth of plants decrease int the need for fertilizer. This is due to higher microbial activity which can help with pore space, added layer of protection from pests, and a water retention layer that helps regulate water.
In conclusion, there is a lot more to do to reduce food waste in the U.S.. Though there are many right steps such as the LA Kitchen or imperfect vegetable companies who sell at reduced price we are not exactly where we should be. However, if we all do our part by things like composting or analyzing the way we shop we can mitigate some of the issues at hand.
Composting At Home. (2020, October 29). Retrieved November 30, 2020, from https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home
Food Waste FAQs. (n.d.). Retrieved November 30, 2020, from https://www.usda.gov/foodwaste/faqs
Harrison, R. B. (2008). Composts. Retrieved November 30, 2020, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/composts
Reducing Wasted Food At Home. (2020, October 29). Retrieved November 30, 2020, from https://www.epa.gov/recycle/reducing-wasted-food-home
Waste Land: Does the Large Amount of Food Discarded in the U.S. Take a Toll on the Environment? (2010, March 03). Retrieved November 30, 2020, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/earth-talk-waste-land/